Fitzgerald Casts Doubt on School Funding, Pre-Existing Conditions Proposals

By John Forester | October 17, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald yesterday cast doubt on two Republican proposals that would increase funding for public education and ensure protections for pre-existing conditions.

The comments came after the Juneau Republican revealed Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has floated an extraordinary session in early December to consider additional legislation beyond the incentive package for Kimberly-Clark.

Fitzgerald said he and the Assembly speaker have had no further discussions on what type of legislation would be introduced. But Vos at a WisPolitics.com luncheon earlier this month said he’d like to take up a bill that previously cleared the Assembly to ensure protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

Fitzgerald cast doubt on whether his caucus has enough votes to pass the bill.

“I wouldn’t rule it out, because obviously it’s generated a lot of heat during this campaign and the election cycle,” he told reporters after a WisPolitics.com luncheon with Senate leaders. “But I know I got members that probably are not on board, which is one of the reasons that it wasn’t something that we tackled at the end of session.”

Fitzgerald’s comments come after Gov. Scott Walker posted a campaign video in which he pledged to protect pre-existing conditions as long as he’s governor.

The Assembly bill cleared the chamber in June 2017, but failed to pass the Senate.

Vos’ office didn’t immediately return a request seeking comment.

A Walker spokeswoman referred WisPolitics.com to the campaign, which didn’t immediately respond.

Fitzgerald also cast doubt on a proposal from Walker for the state to fund two-thirds of K-12 public education costs.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has estimated such a proposal would have cost $130 million more in the 2018-19 fiscal year, however, the agency has not estimated what it would cost in future budgets.

The state is at 65.8 percent for the 2018-19 school year, according to LFB.

“Now you’re talking a big chunk of change, so I think you’re going to have to get some fresh fiscal numbers to see whether or not you could pull that off,” Fitzgerald said during the WisPolitics.com luncheon.

Still, the Senate leader said it’s likely the state could fund another proposal from Walker to increase state transportation funding for counties and towns that would together cost about $110 million annually.

“That’s actually where there’s a lot of pressure for legislators back home in the district. I think that is a commitment you can live up to,” he said.

See Wisconsin Public Radio coverage here.

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School Districts Receive Certified General Aid Figures

By John Forester | October 15, 2018

As required by state statute on or by Oct. 15 of each year, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has provided the certified amount each public school district will receive from the $4.656 billion appropriated for general state aid for the 2018-19 school year.  According to DPI, roughly 55 percent of the state’s public school districts (230 of 422) will receive more general state aid this school year than they did in 2017‑18.  For more information including a listing of school districts and their certified general aid amounts, please see the DPI news release here.

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Walker Plans to Restore Two-Thirds Funding

By John Forester | October 15, 2018

Governor Walker announced this morning on talk radio his intention to restore two-thirds funding.  Of course the real question is how much of the increase will the Governor’s proposal allow schools to actually spend on the children they serve.  Going to two-thirds funding without increasing revenue caps or per pupil aid is really “school funding in name only.”  It provides relief to property taxpayers but no additional resources to spend on educational opportunities for children.  Check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage here.

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Marquette Poll: Evers, Walker in a Toss-up for Governor

By John Forester | October 10, 2018

The new Marquette Law School Poll is out and it shows that that the Governor’s race is essentially a toss-up, with Walker leading 47-46 (well within the margin for error).  Check out the coverage by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

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School Referendums Set For November 6th

By John Forester | October 4, 2018

From The Wheeler Report:

Wisconsin schools will be holding 82 school referendums on the November 6 ballot.

See the report here.

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Walker Campaign Does Not Respond To SAA Request

By John Forester | October 3, 2018

As you know, on September 6th the SAA asked the Walker and Evers campaigns to respond in writing to several questions on current education policy issues impacting Wisconsin public schools and public school children.

The Evers campaign submitted their responses on the September 25th deadline.  After multiple requests and reminders, we have yet to receive a response from the Walker campaign.

Stay tuned.

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Legislature to Call Extraordinary Session Starting November 12

By John Forester | October 3, 2018

From The Wheeler Report . . .

Sen. Fitzgerald has announced that the legislature will call itself into Extraordinary Session on Nov. 12 to take up AB-963, a bill to provide tax credits for Kimberly-Clark in the city of Neenah and village of Fox Crossing. The bill passed the Assembly on February 22, 59-37. Fitzgerald said the Senate will hold a public hearing and a vote will be held on the Senate floor “later in November.” Sen. Fitzgerald told the Associated Press the Extraordinary Session will only consist of the Kimberly-Clark tax incentive package, but Speaker Vos said he is open to taking up additional legislation beyond the Kimberly-Clark tax incentive package in the Extraordinary Session. The Senate Organization Committee ballot will be distributed to members at 2:30 tomorrow, with a deadline of 4:30 tomorrow. The Assembly Organization Committee ballot will be distributed to members at 1 pm on Wednesday and the responses are required by 4 pm on Wednesday.

See Wisconsin State Journal Coverage here.

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SAA Member Jeff Wright Running for State Assembly

By John Forester | September 27, 2018

I’m writing as a reminder to all SAA members that we have one of our own running for the State Legislature.

You might recall that, in 2016, Jeff Wright, assistant superintendent for the Sauk Prairie Schools, ran a strong but unsuccessful campaign for the State Assembly.  Jeff is running again this year for the State Assembly (51st Assembly District) as a Democrat.  Jeff’s career as an educator began as a history, government and world affairs teacher.  He also served as a high school principal on the south side of Chicago.  I first connected with Jeff several years ago when he delivered extremely effective testimony on the state budget before the Joint Finance Committee.  He is a strong advocate for Wisconsin schools and Wisconsin school children.

Needless to say, the SAA is very excited about Jeff’s candidacy.  If you would like more information about his campaign, including information on making a campaign contribution, I have provided a link to Jeff’s campaign website below.

Jeff Wright for Assembly

Please note:  The State Elections Commission has advised that SAA members should access campaign donation pages from a personal computer and not on school servers.

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Evers Campaign Answers SAA Survey Questions

By John Forester | September 27, 2018

Gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers has provided written answers to the SAA’s survey questions.  We have not yet received a response from Governor Walker’s campaign.

Stay tuned.

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Rep. Brooks Resigns Leadership Post Under Fire

By John Forester | September 27, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

Rep. Rob Brooks’ decision to resign his leadership post but remain in the Legislature is “beyond what we expected or even wanted,” said three female GOP lawmakers who were the subject of inappropriate comments the legislator made during an off-site caucus.

But a spokesman for Scott Walker said the guv still believes Brooks, R-Saukville, should resign from the Legislature over the comments.

And Dems called the incident “very troubling” but punted on questions of whether Brooks should leave his seat.

The guv’s call for Brooks to resign followed the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s report, citing sources, that he told Rep. Jessie Rodriguez during an Assembly GOP meeting in the Wisconsin Dells that he was buying drinks for everyone except her because the Oak Creek Republican is Hispanic. Brooks also made sexual comments to GOP Reps. Cindi Duchow, of Delafield, and Amy Loudenbeck, of Clinton, the paper reported.

In a tweet, Walker called Brooks’ comments “offensive and disrespectful. They have no place in our society and are inconsistent with the high standards that must be held by those in public office. He should resign from office, period.”

Brooks, who was elected assistant majority leader for the 2017-18 session, told WisPolitics.com that he was drinking at the time of the incident and was on medication after he had been rear-ended in Madison a couple of months before the caucus.

He also acknowledged that Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, intervened following his comments and he “appreciated Mark stepping up and helping me.” Brooks said he later apologized to all four lawmakers.

“I’m going to step down from leadership to focus on my district,” Brooks said.

“We’ve all moved on. We moved on two months ago.”

Duchow, Loudenbeck and Rodriguez said in a joint statement Brooks’ July comments were “out of line” and they made their views “immediately known to him and the Assembly Chief Clerk.”

They said in the statement they were satisfied with the Assembly response and Brooks’ apology.

“While we respect his decision to resign his leadership position and appreciate the seriousness with which he takes the issue, it is beyond what we expected or even wanted,” they said. “We have put the incident behind us; we would ask kindly ask others to do the same.”

Assembly GOP leaders, meanwhile, condemned the remarks, adding they’d accepted Brooks’ resignation. The position of assistant majority leader will remain open until new leadership elections are held in November for the 2019-20 session.

“We believe the issue had been appropriately resolved but respect Rep. Brook’s decision to resign his leadership post,” the Assembly GOP leaders said.

It is the second time since 2014 that a member of the Assembly GOP leadership team has been accused of inappropriate behavior during an off-site event that involved alcohol. Former Majority Leader Bill Kramer, of Waukesha, was ousted from the No. 2 position after he was accused of groping a legislative aide and making inappropriate comments to a lobbyist during a fundraising trip to Washington, D.C. One witness said Kramer appeared to be drunk.

Later in 2014, Kramer was sentenced to jail for a separate groping incident at a GOP event in 2011.

Prior to the Assembly GOP leadership statement, Dem Reps. Dianne Hesselbein and Chris Taylor urged Speaker Robin Vos to condemn Brooks’ behavior.

Hesselbein, of Middleton, said the news was “very troubling,” telling reporters this afternoon that “alcohol is not an excuse” for the incident.

She and Taylor, of Madison, spoke at a Capitol news conference on the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The event came after a third woman, Julie Swetnick, accused Kavanaugh of inappropriately touching women and spiking their drinks at parties she attended in the 1980s while they were both in high school.

Taylor argued it was “the height of hypocrisy” for the guv to demand Brooks’ resignation while remaining silent on credible accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh and President Trump.

And she said she was “dismayed that Wisconsin Republicans continued to remain silent” on the accusations against the Supreme Court nominee.

There is no mechanism to remove Brooks’ name from the ballot, even if he had decided to resign, according to the Elections Commission.

Brooks faces Dem Chris Rahlf, of Cedarburg in the heavily Republican 60th AD; Walker won the seat with 72.9 percent of the vote in 2014, while Donald Trump won 61.5 percent there two years ago.

Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney pointed out the November ballots have already been printed and distributed, preventing Brooks’ name from being removed.

Republicans could try to mount a write-in campaign for the seat. A candidate seeking to do that would need to register with the Ethics Commission for fundraising purposes. Such a candidate also would have to register with the Elections Commission so any votes cast for that person would be counted by local clerks. Otherwise, write-ins are included under the scattering category when votes are tallied. The deadline to do that would be noon Nov. 2, the Friday before Election Day.

Meanwhile, Brooks has a fundraiser planned tomorrow with a suggested donation of $500, according to an invite obtained by WisPolitics.com. The fishing trip on Lake Michigan had limited spots available, according to the invite.

Brooks said it was a small fundraiser and he planned to check with those who had already decided to participate before deciding whether to proceed with the event.

See Journal Sentinel article here.

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